From 'Seward's folly' to the marshall plan, a snapshot of American diplomacy of the past.
Andy Nelson / The Christian Science Monitor
Thomas Jefferson, the first secretary of State, reigned over a whopping staff of five – a chief clerk, three subordinate clerks, and a messenger boy.
He was the first, but certainly not the last, secretary of State to have his access to the president short-circuited by another cabinet member: in his case, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton.
Jefferson failed to resolve one of the big diplomatic challenges of his tenure: unbridled American navigation of the Mississippi River. Later as president he would solve his old bête noire, access to the Mississippi, by buying the river as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Charles Evans Hughes had the good fortune to serve as secretary of State to President William Harding, who had little interest in foreign policy, giving Hughes free rein. Hughes was influential in post-World War I disarmament talks and revitalized relations with Latin America.